Posted July 9, 2006 by Mike Mineo in Features

Matthew Friedberger

Though he has a rather serious look on his face in the above photo, Matthew Friedberger‘s music has some of the most fun and creative elements you will hear today. He is most well known for being half of the brother and sister duo of The Fiery Furnaces. In the group, he writes most of the music and plays most of the instrument, while his sister Eleanor provides most of the vocals (she is also the star of Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Eleanor Put Your Boots On’, because she dated lead singer Alex Kapranos). Any fans of The Fiery Furnaces know that their music can range from experimental noise to joyful pop. Upon his venture into his first solo album, it seems that Friedberger could not decide on the primary sound… so he decided to make two albums, which would obviously result in a double album. Winter Women is described as a “pop record”, while Holy Ghost Language School is described as a “noise record”. The album is a long one, that’s for sure. It is an overall 109 minutes! That should take you awhile, if you can actually sit through the whole thing. Many people will find themselves loving one album, while absolutely hating the other one. The gaps in diversity between the two are very drastic, and while the general ears may enjoy Winter Women more, the hardcore Fiery Furnaces may find themselves more accustomed to Holy Ghost Language School, which is an experimental way of describing working at a fictional English school in Japan.

‘The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Co. Resignation Letter’ is clearly off of Winter Women, with it’s catchy and accessible harmonies, with a few hooks along the way. Matthew’s vocal style is very similar to his sister’s, and this becomes more noticable in Holy Ghost Language School. ‘Her Chinese Typewriter’ and ‘Don’t You Remember’ are also both off of Winter Women, and the repeatitive chorus in ‘Her Chinese Typewriter’ proves effective, while the little guitar licks in ‘Don’t You Remember’ are fun and a nice different touch to the song. ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’ and ‘Do You Like Blondes?’ are as odd as their titled, with mumbled lyrics that are very hard to understand, though I think that ‘Do You Like Blondes?’ would be another way of asking a Japanese classroom if they liked Americans, since that seems to be the general theme of the album, but that’s just a guess. Friedberger is trying to capture atmosphere and innovation in Holy Ghost Language School, and in that he comes through successfully, as his songs tend to grow on you more than you would think, despite the random odd sounds circulating through your head. All in all, there is something for everyone on Friedberger’s debut, where he doesn’t stray too far from his Fiery Furnaces’ originality. Both albums are released on August 8th.

Matthew Friedberger – The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Co. Resignation Letter



Matthew Friedberger – Her Chinese Typewriter



Matthew Friedberger – Don’t You Remember



Matthew Friedberger – The Cross and the Switchblade



Matthew Friedberger – Do You Like Blondes?





Just for fun, here is the Franz Ferdinand song about Matthew’s sister, Eleanor, along with a few Fiery Furnaces tracks that I posted earlier:

Franz Ferdinand – Eleanor Put Your Boots On


The Fiery Furnaces – Waiting to Know You


The Fiery Furnaces – I’m In No Mood


Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].